Friday, May 31, 2013

May - This Month in Reading

Wow, May turned out to be a banner month for reading. I think I actually read more books this month than I have in January through April combined! My TBR books are in neat-ish piles on a bookshelf in my office, so this month I decided that instead of browsing from the entire collection I'd attempt to clear a single pile, regardless of the actual books in that pile. In other words, no "I'm not in the mood for this type of book," whichever book was at the top of the pile was the next book to be read. That actually worked very well, and it was amazing how often I'd end up enjoying that next book on the pile. I didn't clear the pile just yet, but I did read a whopping 10 books and reduce it considerably, so I'm happy with that.

I read 10 books this month, but summer is going to be very busy for me, so I honestly can't be sure how much reading I will be able to do (although of course I will do my best to get some done). So for a goal for June, I think I'll try to read at least three books - that seems manageable. A bonus would be if I could read books for my challenges, but clearing the pile is more important for that psychological feeling of accomplishment.

How is your summer reading shaping up?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Three Lives of Tomomi Ishikawa - Benjamin Constable

I couldn't resist the intriguing premise of this book when I saw a recent NetGalley email, so I broke my own vow to only read books on my enormous to-be-read pile and requested it. I'm glad I did, I enjoyed it. I love puzzles so that aspect of the book really appealed to me. All in all, however, I really think this book is almost more of a character study than anything else, if that makes sense. I am left with lingering questions about the narrator and the nature of the narration, making me question the reality of some of the events of the book. So as to avoid spoilers, I can't elaborate, but when you read it you'll understand what I mean. It was almost like a journey through a writer's mind that also happens to be part of a mysterious story. I'd recommend this book.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The Finder - Colin Harrison

Another lucky Borders last days find. I enjoyed this book, particularly how the author wove together stories that seemed too disparate to ever be joined. I did take issue with a few too many exclamation marks here and there, but as someone who has a bad habit of overusing exclamation marks I can let it slide, since I was otherwise riveted by the story. I'd definitely check out the author's other books.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Your Perfect Right - Robert Alberti and Michael Emmons

Not sure how this book ended up on my bookshelves - I think it belonged to Mr. K and at some point, I thought I might like to read it - so I did! Maybe this edition was just too outdated for me, but the examples felt hokey, so if you're looking for a book to be A Guide to Assertive Living I would recommend finding the most updated version of this book.

The Story of Edgar Sawtelle - David Wroblewski

Another book that I feel like I read about a lot on book blogs a few years ago, so I eagerly bought it when it appeared on the Library Sale shelves. I enjoyed it, it was hard for me to put down at times, and yet there were other times when I wasn't sure where the story was going, where it seemed to meander a bit. I enjoyed the characterizations, and there was one character I absolutely hated, loathed, and despised. I have to say I had no idea it was an 0prah book, or I would have probably skipped it (I try to avoid "bestsellers" and overly popular books, as I've mentioned before, since they are often tiresome to me), but I nevertheless found the writing to be excellent and liked most of the characters quite a bit.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Grand Ambition - Lisa Michaels

Found this book on the Library Sale shelves and couldn't resist. It's a novel based on the true story of Bessie and Glen Hyde, who attempted to be the first newlyweds to run the Grand Canyon's rapids. This was a great book, the writing was fluid and I could see very vivid, cinematic images in my mind as I was reading. I had trouble putting the book down. I'll definitely be checking out the author's other writing. Recommended.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Emma - Jane Austen

I'm a big fan of the movie Clueless, so ever since I realized it was based on this book, I've been meaning to read it. I snagged a copy of this book at the Borders last day sales and finally made it happen this month. While I was reading it was fun to try to identify the story elements that made it into the movie, which book character was which movie character, etc. In general, however, reading British literature from this time period just makes me think excessively about how envious I am that there used to be an entire class of people who had nothing better to do all day than take walks, visit the neighbors*, and pursue their own interests, and of course an entire class of people who had no choice but to serve the luckier class. And yes, I'm jealous of the "landed gentry" types; my dream is to be able to read and pursue my own interests all day, even as I realize that this is a gross oversimplification of how things were back then, and people were severely limited in their roles, and etc., but I can daydream :) Also, after reading books from this time period, I long to read something written in a more contemporary voice, so there will definitely be a few more recently published books on the reading horizon.

* Only the ones of the proper sort, of course!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Years of Red Dust - Qiu Xiaolong

Subtitled Stories of Shanghai, rather than simply a random collection of stories, this is a series about a single Shanghai street that takes place from 1949 - 2005. My usual reluctance about short story collections didn't materialize, as the overall focus on single area meant that many of the characters appeared in multiple stories. The overall effect is more like a novel and I found it to be a fascinating look at the changes in China since 1949. Recommended.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Marcus of Umbria - Justine van der Leun

I found this book baffling. Its subtitle is What an Italian Dog Taught an American Girl about Love, but the dog really isn't a major player in the book at all. Some of the events make no sense - the author tells us that the rural Italian family she is tangentially part of (by virtue of being the ostensible girlfriend of one son) is constantly battling bankruptcy, yet a few chapters later she has convinced the boyfriend to part with his life savings to buy her a horse, solely because she has a fantasy of owning a horse. She claims she is a great novelty to the villagers, who are supposedly unused to an American in their midst, but her boyfriend's mother works for a wealthy American, and non-Italians are always mentioned as being part of the village life, so - ? She tells us she has learned a rough, rural dialect of Italian that leads her to sound crude and coarse to non-villagers, but doesn't back this up with any relevant examples. Books like this are usually more light-hearted, but this book had such a negative tone it felt more like a chore to read - it was more about an American "girl"'s year of moping around rural Italy, failing to meet her own unrealistic expectations for life.

Destroy All Monsters - Greg Hrbek

What a wonderful exception to my usual mixed feelings about short story collections. This kind of fluid, beautiful writing seems to be more and more unusual and hard to find these days. My usual complaint, that short stories feel unsatisfying and leave me wanting more, was rendered moot in this collection, as each story felt perfectly self-contained and seemed to tell a complete story despite its shorter format. In fact, my only complaint about this book is that I want more of these stories. Highly recommended.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cold Zero - Christopher Whitcomb

The subtitle to this book is Inside the FBI Hostage Rescue Team and it's written by an FBI Special Agent, who is something of a Renaissance man with a background in writing/literature, so the writing is solid. I love behind-the-scenes type books, and I found this book's description of the training and actual real-life hostage/stand off situations fascinating. Recommended.